Published On: Tue, Jun 17th, 2014

Supreme Court upholds free speech in Ohio billboard case

Monday Today the United States Supreme Court upheld the First Amendment right to free speech as applied to pro-life political speech in Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus. The controversial case sprung from the Ohio election commission’s decision that the pro-life advocacy organization’s statements about an incumbent Congressman’s voting record were a violation of state law.  Here’s the original story.

Photo/Nodar Kherkheulidze via wikimedia commons

Photo/Nodar Kherkheulidze via wikimedia commons

“This decision is a victory for the Susan B. Anthony List and for pro-life advocates everywhere,” declared Dana Cody, president and executive director of Life Legal Defense Foundation, filer of an amici curiae (friends of the court) brief in support of the Susan B. Anthony List, in conjunction with the Bioethics Defense Fund.  Cody added, “Today the Justices acknowledged the harm that occurs when free-speech is chilled by the threat of prosecution. Susan B. Anthony List has won the opportunity to challenge Ohio’s election law and thereby to speak the truth about our elected leaders in the future.” 

The case began when the Susan B. Anthony List publicized the voting records of members of Congress who voted in favor of Obamacare, known as the Affordable Care Act, despite the taxpayer funded abortion that it put into place. The group’s political opponents claimed that statements such as, “Shame on Steve Driehaus! Driehaus voted FOR taxpayer-funded abortion,” were false and violated Ohio’s election laws.  Faced with the threat of prosecution, the Susan B. Anthony List challenged the law. The lower courts ruled that there was no current threat of prosecution, and thus the organization lacked standing to bring the challenge.

Today’s United States Supreme Court ruling in the Susan B. Anthony List’s favor found that the pro-life group had demonstrated a credible threat of enforcement of the law against them. Justice Clarence Thomas delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court ruling that the Susan B. Anthony List and co-petitioner COAST (Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes) have standing to challenge the Ohio election statute under which they had been threatened with prosecution for holding members of Congress responsible for their voting record.

The Court concluded that, “…denying prompt judicial review would impose a substantial hardship on petitioners, forcing them to choose between refraining from core political speech on the one hand, or engaging in that speech and risking costly proceedings and criminal prosecution on the other.”

Read the brief filed by Life Legal Defense Foundation and the Bioethics Defense Fund in Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus here [http://lldf.org/wp-content/uploads/SBA6thCirTruth-FINAL.pdf].

Shame on Steve Driehaus billboard free speech Supreme Court

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